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Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Surge

2150 GMT: Prominent activist Wael Ghonim today on CNN, telling the regime, " "If you are true Egyptians, if you are heroic Egyptians, it's time to step down":

2115 GMT: The Jordanian website Ammon News was hacked on Sunday after it refused to comply with demands from security agents to remove a critical statement from Jordanian tribesmen.

The statement by 36 tribal figures calling for democratic and economic reforms in Jordan and warned of civil unrest if they were not implemented quickly. Because the kingdom relies on support from the leaders of Jordan's sizable tribal population, any public split is seen as sensitive.

A statement from Ammon News accused Jordanian intelligence of hacking the website.

2105 GMT: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, has rejected US calls for the immediate repeal of Cairo's emergency law and charged that Washington was trying to impose its will on the Egyptian regime.

Asked if he viewed the advice provided by US Vice-President Joe Biden as helpful, Gheit told the American PBS NewsHour programme, "Not at all.”

On Tuesday Biden set out four steps the US wanted Egypt to take, telling it to stop harassing protesters, to repeal the emergency law allowing detention without charge, to broaden participation in a national dialogue, including more opposition members, and to treat the opposition as a partner in plans to end Egypt's political crisis.

Gheit responded, with regard to the demand on the emergency law:

When I read it this morning I was really amazed because right now, as we speak, we have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets out of jails that have been destroyed. How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I'm in difficulty? Give me time, allow me to have control to stabilise the nation, to stabilise the state and then we would look into the issue.

2100 GMT: In Algeria, Le Quotidien d'Algerie reports on a series of clashes between young protesters and police in Naciria, El Harrouch, Sidi Amar, and Boumerdes on Monday and Tuesday.

2025 GMT: Al Masry al Youm reports

Banks will open as usual on Thursday from 8:30 AM until 2:00 PM, with some branches remaining open until 5:00 PM. Banks on Sunday opened 327 branches from 10:00 AM until 1:30 PM in Cairo, Alexandria and provincial capitals. On Wednesday, the total number of open bank branches countrywide rose to 732.

Hisham Ezz al-Arab, managing director of the Commercial International Bank, said the bank would on Thursday reopen 40 branches, to be increased by Monday to 90 branches, from a total of 155 branches that would be fully operational by next week. The National Bank is currently operating 110 branches out of its total of 254 branches. This number will be increased as of Thursday so as to cover the provinces.

The Egyptian pound is trading stable in the meantime, thanks to government intervention. 

2020 GMT: The Tunisian parliament today granted the interim president with powers to rule by decree. 

2010 GMT: Al Masry al Youm reports:

The second semester in Egyptian schools and universities has been postponed for one week as a result of ongoing protests, announced the Egyptian government on Wednesday.

2000 GMT: Al Masry al Youm reports

Around 3,000 protesters from a settlement in Port Said, north east of Cairo, set the headquarters of the Port Said governorate on fire today after they found a complaint they had submitted to the governor  trashed in a garbage can.

Protesters and eye witnesses said they saw two motorbikes on fire, while the protesters had burned the 40-meter high glass edifice of the governorate headquarters.

1935 GMT: The Los Angeles Times reports

Egypt's state-owned NileSat satellite company has announced that it will unblock Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera Live, the Doha-based news network announced Wednesday, 10 days after authorities stopped transmission over the channel's coverage of anti-government protests.

The decision comes after Egypt's ambassador to the United Nations, Maged Abdelaziz, told the U.N. Security Council that the government had no effective means of controlling the flow of information.

1930 GMT: Tahrir is packed again tonight: 

1917 GMT: The impression that the Egyptian Army was playing a neutral game has come under question. Foreign Policy reports

Human rights activists in Washington and Cairo reported last week uniformed Egyptian military personnel were directly involved in the arrest, detention, and interrogation of human rights activists in Egypt, including the raid on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, which included the arrest of Human Rights Watch researcher Daniel Williams. In a gripping first-hand account on Monday, Williams explained the extensive role of Egyptian military personnel in his incarceration.

"The initial impression was that the military sided with the demonstrators yet provided order amid the chaos, which is why I was surprised to see the soldier on the chair, harassing the human rights workers about a ‘suspicious meeting' with foreigners bent on ‘ruining our country,' Williams wrote on Monday  at The Daily Beast. "There was no doubt that the army was in charge of the raid. At one point, a major general showed up at the Hisham Mubarak center and other officers worked hand in glove with a uniformed policeman, plainclothes state security agents and assorted abusive henchmen."

1900 GMT: The Egyptian Minister of Culture has resigned. 

1854 GMT: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned that the Army could act to "protect national security if "adventurers" try to take power".

1847 GMT: Al Jazeera is now reporting that at least 5 people have been killed in Wadi al-Jadid after police fired live rounds on protesters. 

1830 GMT: An Internet activist has collected the Twitter messages sent by her friend, who is witnessing the clashes in Al-Wadi Al-Jadid. A sample:

6 hours ago

Revolution… revolution until victory! Revolution in all the streets of Egypt.

4 hours ago

I need the number of any satellite television station quick.. the situation is getting worse, and the security forces are wiping out the protesters. The security thugs are everywhere. The number of martyrs increases to eight - and there are dozens of injured, fighting death, now. Please, whoever reads this, give me the number of any channel, please.

44 minutes ago

Confirmed news that a large number of thugs are now going towards the Antiques Museum to break into it and set it on fire. Hundreds of youth are regrouping themselves to go and confront the thugs. The youth are preparing a large number of molotov bombs to surprise them.

35 minutes ago

The youth are finding it difficult to regroup because of the darkness on the streets after the electricity was cut off. Unfortunately I was not able to tally the number of those arrested. The flames of fires continue to rise across the district.

27 minutes ago

Unfortunately I will not go. I have chosen a path I must complete. I wanted to see my mother. I had hoped to see her. Also, my phone is running out of charge.

1750 GMT: Syrian authorities have announced that they are lifting a ban, in place since 2007, on access to Facebook and Twitter.

Al-Watan, a newspaper close to the government, quoted analysts as saying that the move demonstrated "the government's confidence in its performance and that the state did not fear any threat coming from these two sites nor others".

Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir is trying a different strategy, calling on his supporters to use Facebook to overcome groups who are opposed to his rule.

As he opened a power plant, Bashir told authorities to extend electricity to the countryside so younger citizens can use computers and internet to combat opposition through social networking sites.


1740 GMT: Back from academic break to find that a mass for the victims of the 1 January suicide bombing in Alexandria will be held at 8 p.m. local time (1800 GMT) in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

At least 23 people died in the explosion outside a Coptic Christian church.

There are now three confirmed deaths from the overnight clashes in the New Valley in southwestern Egypt, with at least 100 people injured. Witnesses are telling Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera of the use of live fire by police.

Thousands of striking workers have been demonstrating in Alexandria and Cairo --- there are at least 6000 in the capital alone:

1430 GMT: We are still on academic break until 1600 GMT. Live coverage continues on the feed from Al Jazeera English on the EA site.

1300 GMT: Reporter Jon Jensen sends the message, "Over a thousand protesters now marching from Tahrir to reinforce their new position outside Egypt's parliament."

Meanwhile, an image of Tahrir Square today:

1250 GMT: Al Masry Al Youm summarises the "unprecedented labour and professional unrest" across Egypt this week, including strikes and demonstrations at media and telecommunications organisations and at textile and chemical plants.

1150 GMT: Ben Wedeman of CNN gets a text from the Ministry of Interior, "From today our dealings with you will be with honesty, trust and lawfulness."

1145 GMT: Al Jazeera reports two confirmed deaths and dozens injured in the clashes in Al-Wadi al-Jadid in the New Valley in southwestern Egypt (see 0745 GMT).

1130 GMT: Earlier today, prominent singer Tamer Hosny was booed off stage by protesters in Tahrir Square after he made comments supporting President Mubarak. Subsequently he gave a tearful interview:

1105 GMT: Al Intifada, a group using social media sites to mobilize youth across northern Sudan, said they are planning demonstrations from Saturday against "bad governance and economic hardship".

Al Intifada is seeking protests in Khartoum, Medani, and Al Fashir. A leading member of the group, Al Fadil Iddris Ali, claims Al Intifada has 28,000 members across northern Sudan.

There were protests, downplayed by authorities, earlier this month in Khartoum and other cities.

1045 GMT: Calm, rational headline of the day comes from an article by Kenneth Pollack, former CIA officer, in The Wall Street Journal: "Could al Qaeda Hijack Egypt's Revolution?"

1040 GMT: Egypt state radio is reporting that 34 political prisoners were released Tuesday and 1000 "non-political" prisoners, having served three-quarters of sentences, were freed Wednesday.

1025 GMT: A state employee in the wilayat of Bejaia, 250 kilometres (160 miles) east of Algiers, has set himself on fire, apparently because of a change of position.

1015 GMT: Soha al-Naqqash, a presenter at state-run Nile TV, has resigned over the channel's coverage.

Al-Naqqash said she tried to convince her bosses to change the coverage to reflect what was actually happening, but she was rebuffed: “They used to say ‘these are the instructions’. I decided to resign so as not to get involved in what’s unprofessional."

0950 GMT: Al Jazeera English reports that strikes, involving about 10,000 protesters, are taking place in Mahalla and Suez.

0945 GMT: Dominic Waghorn of Sky News reports, "Visited Hisham Mubarak human rights office. Every computer ripped open, hard drive taken by secret police."

0905 GMT: Essem el-Erian, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has told reporters from The Guardian of London, "There is no compromise." He continued:


We reassess our position every day, maybe every hour. We give them some time to discuss … [Those around Mubarak] are arranging their affairs because he was a symbol of the regime and he was controlling them. They need some time. We give them this chance. A week.


Meanwhile, the Brotherhood's English-language site has made its position on the support of the Iranian regime, offered by the Supreme Leader last Friday, crystal-clear through publication of an article from The Eurasia Review:

[The editor of] Ikhwanweb, the Muslim Brotherhood's official English website,...Khaled Hamza has stated that the current uprising in Egypt is a revolution of the Egyptian people and is by no means linked to any Islamic tendencies, despite allegations nor can it be described as Islamic.

Hamza stressed that the revolution is peaceful and calls solely for reform and a democratic civil state initiated by the youth through the social networking service Facebook and is far removed from any Islamist groups.

He criticized allegations and reiterations by some countries that the uprising was Islamic and denounced claims by the Iranian Supreme Leader Mr. Khamenei that the protests are a sign of an Islamic Awakening inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

0900 GMT: Demonstrators who spent the night outside Parliament have been joined by "several hundred" people chanting, "My country has been sold cheap."

0855 GMT: Writing for EA this morning, Darrell Ezell advises, "Uprisings are set to shake up traditional US diplomatic engagement from traditional two-party talks between elites to three- and four-party talks that include leadership from moderate to radical reformist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood."

I'm not sure that message is getting through. The New York Times announces this morning, "Allies Press US to Go Slow on Egypt":


Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say. One Middle Eastern envoy said that on a single day, he spent 12 hours on the phone with American officials.


There is evidence that the pressure has paid off. On Saturday, just days after suggesting that it wanted immediate change, the administration said it would support an “orderly transition” managed by Vice President Omar Suleiman. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Mr. Mubarak’s immediate resignation might complicate, rather than clear, Egypt’s path to democracy, given the requirements of Egypt’s Constitution.

“Everyone is taking a little breath,” said a diplomat from the region, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing private conversations. “There’s a sense that we’re getting our message through.”


0745 GMT: An EA source, writing at 0550 GMT, confirms stories we have heard overnight of clashes in Al-Wadi al-Jadid in the New Valley in southwest Egypt:


There is a massacre going on now in New Valley, near Kharga Oasis, in Egypt. The police cut off the electricity and water about 2-3 hours ago. They fired live bullets at the protesters. After brutally beating the protesters, the police were forced to retreat. While retreating they set a gas station on fire. The protesters successfully put out the fire using buckets full of sand.


The protesters set the NDP HQ, Governorate building, and the police station on fire (the police station is unconfirmed). The police arrested a lot of youth randomly and took them to an unknown destination. Also the police set a lot of convicts from the Wadi Prison free to scare the people,keeping only political detainees. The latest news was that the convicts are set to attack the museum, and the protesters are preparing Molotovs for defense. Mohammed Hassan Belal, a 20-year-old protester, is the first confirmed death.


The Egyptian newspaper Youm7, which has been reporting overnight, claims 100 injured with the use of at least 40 live bullets. It says the clashes began after a police car was set on fire.

0710 GMT: Wael Ghonim claimed an hour ago, "An officer just called me to tell me: I escaped from the service after [former Minister of Interior Habib] ElAdly asked us to fire live bullets randomly on protesters."

0650 GMT: Jon Leyne of the BBC is direct this morning: "The protesters have regained momentum. They have regained the initiative."

0630 GMT: Journalist Mohamed Fatta writes, "Woke up to hundreds jogging while chanting against Mubarak. Beautiful." 

0615 GMT: We began yesterday with two contrasting features: the concern of Claudio Gallo that the surge of protest was diminishing amidst the "fair" of Tahrir Square in Cairo and the prospect of new energy through the symbolic appearance of freed detainee Wael Ghonim, the activist behind the "We are All Khaled Said" campaign.

Throughout the day we got responses to those features in the images and sounds of protests not only in Cairo but throughout Egypt. Alongside the line that life in Egypt was returning to "normal", hundreds of thousands joined demonstrations and marches in the capital and in other cities from Alexandria to Mansoura. Ghonim made a short but powerful speech in Tahrir, and thousands moved outside the Square to protest in front of the Parliament Building, several hundred reportedly staying for the night.

While these were powerful replies to the declaration that the protest was now contained, only the foolhardy would declare yet another "turning point" or the prospect of resolution. For while the protesters were putting forth the message that this was more than a carnival, Vice President Omar Suleiman --- now effectively leading the regime --- was digging in. 

Yesterday's talks with the opposition do not appeared to have made any progress. Evan Hill of Al Jazeera English, who was at the night-time sit-in in front of Parliament, summarised, "Youth movement negotiators told me tonight that a meeting today between Suleiman and intermediaries went poorly. Protest expansion expected." Ghonim added his opinion, "This is not the time to 'negotiate', this is the time to 'accept' and 'enforce' the demands of the Egyptian Youth movement."

So to today. Suleiman is shaking a fist, saying he "can't put up with continued protests". He is buttressing this with a message of fear, telling State outlets that Al-Qa'eda members were amongst those who escaped from Egyptian prisons last week. He even warned --- somewhat bizarrely, given his recent role as head of Egyptian intelligence and the military's control of the streets --- that a "coup" might overthrow the Government.

But, for the moment, the regime --- even if President Hosni Mubarak continues to hole up with his official position --- is having to put up with those protests. And the message they were putting out yesterday, in growing numbers, was not of fear but of enthusiasm, hope, and celebration.

Whether that will be a celebration not only of the moment but of the victory for their demands remains the ongoing question.

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